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河北快三 www.sjq06.cn Small margins on return of serve are the difference for Rafael Nadal in his performances on clay and hard courts.

Why Rafa's Return On Hard Is Still Impressive

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analyses the numbers behind the Spaniard's performances on clay and hard courts

How much better is Rafael Nadal, who seeks his fourth title at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells this week, on clay courts over hard courts?

With the hard-court Miami Open presented by Itau and the clay-court Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters looming large in the next month, it’s a topic that naturally gets a lot of attention at this time of year.

The Spaniard has never won in Miami, but he has taken the title in Monte-Carlo a record 11 times, including the last three in a row. The results are night and day.

On the surface, Nadal is historically about 20 per cent better on clay, winning 92 per cent (415-36) of his clay-court matches and 77 per cent (442-130) of his hard-court matches throughout his career, which represents a 19.5 per cent increase.

But when you break matches down to points – the building blocks of our sport – you can make a solid case that the Spaniard is just 2.7 per cent better.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Nadal’s winning percentage when returning serve on clay and hard uncovers that he does perform better on clay, but only marginally better than hard.

The data set comes from ATP Masters 1000s from 2011 to 2018 and the Nitto ATP Finals. The win percentages are calculated from returns put back in play, therefore aces and return errors are not included.

FIRST SERVE RETURNS

It’s jaw-dropping to uncover that Nadal is able to forge a winning percentage (50.6 per cent) on clay when he is able to get the first serve back in play. What’s interesting is that he is not that far away on hard court either, with a gap of just 2.1 percentage points, or 4.3 per cent.

First Serve Returns
Hard Court Clay Court
Deuce Court Wide
46.6% 50.0%
Deuce Court Middle
48.5% 50.9%
Deuce Court T
48.9% 50.2%
Ad Court T
46.8% 52.0%
Ad Court Middle
62.1% 52.4%
Ad Court Wide
50.7% 49.2%
AVERAGE
48.5% 50.6%

SECOND SERVE RETURNS

The gap in win percentage is actually closer between hard and clay against second serves, with Nadal winning 2.5 per cent more on clay (2.1 percentage points).

Second Serve Returns
Hard Court Clay Court
Deuce Court Wide
55.6% 57.8%
Deuce Court Middle
56.2% 55.0%
Deuce Court T
61.8% 53.5%
Ad Court T
56.1% 59.4%
Ad Court Middle
57.9% 60.0%
Ad Court Wide
54.2% 59.7%
AVERAGE
56.5% 57.9%

With first serves and second serves combined, Nadal has won 53.7 per cent of return points on clay and 52.3 per cent on hard, representing a 1.4 percentage point gap, or a 2.7 per cent increase on clay.

Nadal is the ATP career leader on clay with both first serve and second serve return points won. On hard, he is ranked 23rd best against first serves, and 14th best against second serves.

We play a sport of incredibly small margins. A point here or there in Miami for Nadal over the years could have definitely led to more silverware to sit beside his impressive Monte-Carlo haul.

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